Charlie Says 2013
24min | Short, Drama | 29 June 2013 (UK)
A young boy’s lie cuts through the calm of a family holiday and leaves a trail in it’s wake that threatens to grow into something more dangerous as dusk approaches.
On holiday with his family, young Charlie is stuck by himself as the adults hang out together, and the older children don’t want him around with them either. Returning to the teenagers, Charlie says that he was grabbed at by a man who then chased him through the woods. The older boys set out to find the man, but Charlie’s story escalates things when the parents find out and, in particular, Charlie’s dad sets out looking.
Although it runs for 20 minutes or so, this short actually covers quite a simple scene in terms of what it plays out on the screen. Mostly what goes unsaid and unseen is what makes the film work, and as such it is a bit folded in on itself and a bit quiet. This is a double-edged sword because on one hand it does allow the material space to breathe but at the same it also makes the film feel slower and perhaps like little happens. In another version of this story perhaps the fallout would be more significant in terms of events, whereas here for the majority of the adults it will be put down to an overreaction that Charlie’s dad had a bit too much about him but at least nobody got hurt, but it is Charlie himself where the consequences are. In the end Charlie comes clean – which is a brave act in the light of events; however his father does not come clean and instead continues the lie to its conclusion. In one way it could be taken that he is protecting his son from the judgment of others, but personally I think the dad is protecting himself from being wrong or from dealing with his own reaction. It is a cowardly reaction to the news of the lie then, and one that we are left to wonder regarding the impact on Charlie and his relationship with his father.
I found it engaging in the way it leaves this space to think about each character’s reactions and motivations, although at the same time I think there was scope to expand on this a little in order to make it more accessible and provide a bit less space in the delivery. The delivery of the piece is very natural and adds realism to the bottled-up characters and unspoken feelings; the camera moves well and the cinematography gives the film a good look without filling out the color to take away from the realistic look. The performances are solid throughout – feeling like real people. Chapman’s Charlie is convincing, and I felt bad for being constantly distracted by him looking like he was wearing makeup through the majority of the short – particularly in the first half where his lips were lipstick red and the chocolate round his mouth looked like badly applied liner; not sure why this was the case but it was distracting.
It is not a perfect film, but it is an engaging one nonetheless – with a lot unsaid to mull over, even if a little more expansion within the running time would have been better.
Director: Lewis Arnold
Writer: Frances Poletti
Stars: Conner Chapman, Gary Cargill, Elliott Tittensor